Cristian Bolaños (white jersey) and Costa Rica, shown playing against the USA in the Copa America Centenario, have reached the final round of CONCACAF qualifying for Russia 2018. (Photo: Mexsport)
SAN JOSE, Costa Rica – With 16 out of 18 points earned during the fourth round of CONCACAF qualifying for the 2018 FIFA World Cup, Russia 2018, Costa Rica topped Group B thanks to a 3-1 win over visiting Panama on Tuesday at the Estadio Nacional.
In his post-match press conference, the thoughts of Costa Rica head coach Oscar Ramirez transitioned quickly to the final round, which begins in just over two months. The Costa Ricans are slated to open play with a visit to Trinidad and Tobago on November 11, followed by a home encounter against the United States four days later.
“I think it is difficult, but it’s the draw and it’s what we have to face,” said Ramirez, who played for Costa Rica in the 1990 World Cup. “The Hexagonal, without a doubt, is going to be very even for everyone. Also, very different variables will come into play than the ones now. They are things that you have to know how to manage and no doubt defend the notion of getting points here [at home].”
Despite the challenges ahead, Ramirez is confident that his team is prepared, emphasizing that Group B was the most difficult of the three fourth-round quartets. The Ticos beat Panama and Haiti, while taking four points from 2015 CONCACAF Gold Cup runner-up Jamaica.
“Nobody denies that this group was the most difficult at the start and we still emerged unbeaten,” the Ramirez, 51, finished. “That and the certainty we have the human resources and the playing philosophy are two things that leave me very calm and motivated. Today, for example, we played with almost seven changes and the style was maintained. The values we have were defended.”
Costa Rica and Mexico acquired the most points in fourth-round qualifying with 16 each.